Monday, February 19, 2007


After spending 7 hours "Doing Baseball" (as The African Queen always calls my passion) covering my first day of Washington Nationals Spring Training, it was time to take The Queen out to enjoy something she really wanted to do. So, despite the cold weather, we headed off to the beach, Cocoa Beach. Being from The Gambia, West Africa, Sohna grew up alongside the water and is still partial to that setting today. Nothing makes her remember the homeland more than a breeze, water and sand.

We spent some time, taking in the scenery and the calm view. No one was on the beach. It was actually quite nice. As the sun decended, we headed off to do some shopping and then have Dinner. Our first choice was Seafood at Florida's--by far the finest seafood restaurant in this part of Central Florida. That recommendation comes from me, personally. Having covered multiple Space Shuttle Flights over the past years, there is no doubt in my mind, Florida's is my favorite.

But, as is the case, even on a Monday Night, the wait to be seated was nearly one hour. We really didn't want to wait, as we have the remainder of the week to enjoy their food. So, off we went to Carrabba's, the chain Italian restaurant with the freshly made pastas, that so many also enjoy. The wait there, was just 15 minutes, so The African Queen and I sat down at the bar, to enjoy Happy Hour. All Drinks, 2 for 1. We ordered a couple half carafes of Cabernet Sauvignion.

As we chatted, I looked up to see a tall, lanky fellow, wearing a heavy grey sweatshirt and Adidas navy blue cap deep down over his eyes, sit down, 4 bar stools from us. With me still wearing my Bright Red "DC" sweatshirt, it did not take him, but a brief moment to spot me. He started to laugh, to himself, shaking his head, but did not, at yet, acknowledge us.

Washington Nationals Pitcher, John Patterson, had decided to go out of his way (this Carrabba's is a good 20 miles from Space Coast Stadium), for dinner alone. And, ran into one of the most RABID FANS out there---ME. As much as we wanted to talk to him, we really didn't want to bother him. No one else in the restaurant knew who he was. NO ONE.

As The African Queen and I were laughing about running into him, our Buzzer, signifying our table was ready, started blinking wildly. As we walked right past him to be seated, John Patterson looked up, saying "I noticed you two the moment I walked into the place." I replied: "Its fairly difficult to miss the bright red." JP laughing: "No Doubt."

We offered him the opportunity the sit down with us for dinner, as we actually felt bad he was all alone. Not sure if he was really interested, but Patterson quite kindly said "That's very kind of you to offer (nodding his head up and down), but I am fine, I am calling some folks (on his cell phone)."

Patterson's appetizer had arrived and we did not wish to bother him further, off to our table we continued. After enjoying our fine meal, Sohna and I got up to leave--AT THE SAME TIME AS PATTERSON. The African Queen went up to him and started chatting. And, let me tell you, there is nothing like having The African Queen standing next to you to break the ice. It works EVERY SINGLE TIME!! No doubt, we are The Odd Couple.

John asked Sohna, "You are not from here? (USA)" The Queen responded, "No, from West Africa, The Gambia" That peaked his interest. We got into a very nice 5 minute conversation, explaining to him how we met in Television News. And, the organizations we've worked for. Patterson was very interested. Sohna and I mentioned that we've come to virtually every single game in the two year history of Our Washington Nationals. He was taken back by that fact. He asked where we sit. Sohna mentioned SECTION 320. "Where exactly is that at RFK?" JP asked. I responded "Right behind the third base dugout just under the overhang." Sohna chimed in: "We are the group that does all the cheers and chants for the players, like Alfonso--SORIANO!!" Patterson starts laughing: "Oh--I know you guys, EVERYBODY KNOWS YOU GUYS!!"

I am sure the SMILE ON MY FACE WAS A MILE WIDE!!, after hearing that comment. but I recovered nicely.

John continued, "We really need more fans like you two. We might struggle over the next year or two, but with the new stadium coming, its really going to be a great place to play. Hopefully, fans will support us more and more."

(SBF here)-I can only hope you will be there to enjoy the success?

John immediately said: "I really want to. It (DC) is a great city to play. And, an exciting time to be a Washington National."

Yeah, I said, but I bet you really didn't like that arbitration process that you went through last week and Chad Cordero is also going to go through tomorrow in Phoenix? Patterson, sadly, but firmly shook his head side to side, lips pursed tightly, then unhappily stated: "No, no fun at all."

But, never one to end the conversation on a sad note, I finally asked him: How's your ligament in your elbow, John?

"It feels great, I am having no problems. I feel strong and ready to go."

With that, JP strongly shook our hands, "It was a great pleasure meeting you two," he nicely stated.

And, we wished him well. Our unexpected conversation was very nice. John Patterson kindly, and willingly, talked with us. He then agreed to talk with me more later in the week, to officially do The Nats 320 Blog.

As The African Queen stated on our drive back to our hotel. "Its amazing what happens when you least expect it."

How True. We were just hoping he was not staying at the same hotel as us. John Patterson would then think we were stalking him.


Anonymous said...


That's a great anecdote about your chance meeting with JP. He seems like a real nice guy. In fact, based on what you've written so far, the team appears to be relatively free of prima donnas altogether. I envy your ability to take a week to travel to Viera for spring training. Sadly, because I'm a teacher, taking a week off at this time of year is not something that I can do. So, I'm ever so grateful that I can live vicariously through your experiences that you're kind enough to share with the rest of us. I look forward to your next dispatch!

Anonymous said...


Every few years, public school spring break lines up nicely with MLB spring training. In '05 I took the wife and kids to Viera to watch the first Nats spring training since my dad took me in the early '70s to see the Senators. It is truly a great trip, especially if you stay in Cocoa Beach. The ballpark is just a few minutes away, the amusement parks are just an hour away, Nasa is just a mile away, and the beach is just a few feet away. We had a great time. We are biding our time until Montgomery County Public Schools and the calendar come into alignment again before we make the return trip.

Cathy said...

This is a longshot but... on Cocoa Beach north of the air force base is a hotel on the beach called "South Beach" (very colorful). On the beach behind it, little chatter built a sand castle close to where the tide comes up. He stuck his "practice ball" inside and covered it and naturally we forgot it was there. I suppose it's possible the mound of the sand castle is still there and the ball around? Maybe? If ya head back to the beach, could you check? ;-)